Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn sees no reason why Michael Schumacher cannot join the growing list of F1 race winners in 2012, but admits that the team has to raise its game to overcome a recent run of frustration.
Speaking via the team's YouTube
channel, Brawn conceded that it Mercedes had 'dropped the ball' on a few occasions this season, but remained perplexed as to why all the problems that it had encountered tended to affect Schumacher's car - a direct contrast to the German's seven championship years, when reliability problems seemed to seek out his subservient team-mates at Benetton and Ferrari.
"Our standards are very high," Brawn noted, "We haven't changed anything or let our standards slip on any way, so it has been highly frustrating that we have had so many problems. It's peculiar we have had one car do every lap of every race and one with so many problems.
"We still have a lot of races left, but I am pleased with the performance of the car because we have won a race and were second in Monaco. The car is nearly always in the top four or six in qualifying, so I think it is much more competitive this year, but we haven't quite put the whole programme together. We have dropped the ball in a couple of races and we have not made the most of it. I intend for the rest of the season to make sure we as a team fulfil our potential because I think the potential this year is much better than previous years."
While Nico Rosberg has broken his victory duck with success in China, Schumacher's points haul remains at a measly two, courtesy of tenth place finishes in Malaysia and Bahrain. The last three races have added to his total five DNFs, and even a pole-winning performance in Monte Carlo was scuppered by a penalty picked up in Barcelona two weeks before.
Despite that, however, Brawn sees no reason why the 43-year old German cannot join team-mate Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and the surprising Pastor Maldonado among the season's success stories, even becoming the eighth different winner in as many races at this weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia.
"There's every opportunity that at the next race in Valencia we're going to have an eighth winner," Brawn said, "I expect Valencia to be a reasonably good track for us and I expect us to be competitive as we have been in most of the races this season. There are some very quick drivers in very quick cars who have not won a race yet - I'm thinking of Michael in our car, but the Lotus is good and they haven't won, while Sauber have put in some great results too."
While Schumacher languishes 18th in the championship standings - behind the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Nico Hulkenberg and Bruno Senna - Rosberg remains in touching distance of the leaders, particularly under the revised scoring system, prompting Brawn to tip him as a title outsider.
"Nico is driving very well, the car is extremely competitive and he is one race win away from leading the world championship," the team principal pointed out, "We just have to fight with everything we have to achieve the best results we can and see what evolves, but there is no reason why not."